Filed under: Announcements & Events, Entertainment Industry, File-Sharing Programs, Networks & Services, Legal P2P News & Issues
Pirate Bay: so loved, so hunted. Following a complaint filed by The Irish Recorded Music Association, the High Court ordered last month several Irish ISPs to prevent Internet users from accessing The Pirate Bay within 30 days.
The ISPs that received the court request based on the decision that TPB encourages its users to violate the copyright law were UPC, Imagine, Vodafone, Digiweb, Hutchison 3G and Telefonica O2. All of them were given a 30-day time to comply with the order and that term expires this week. However, it seems that some of the ISPs met their obligations earlier and already put a lock on the infamous file-sharing website.
Not long ago a similar anti-piracy blockade was launched in the UK as well but the black list there included more names (such as KickAssTorrents). It wouldn’t be too much of a surprise if in the future, at the request of the Irish music industry, other file-sharing websites will be targeted in the same way. For now, Pirate Bay fans are happy to circumvent the blockade and enjoy their online freedom by using a Pirate Bay proxy site (you can find a detailed list of the Pirate Bay proxy sites available here).
It’s estimated that 15.000 people access shady websites on a daily basis via Tor, and that’s only in the UK. While most people claim to use Tor because they wish to stay anonymous, others exploit the layers of proxies to find drugs and child pornography.
The Onion Router has been developed by the US Navy (back in 2002) in order to keep government communications safe from prying eyes. It’s estimated that Tor had reached approximately 600.000 users a year (between 2011 and 2012), with a little over 15.000 daily users in the UK. The way Tor works is pretty simple to understand – instead of using one proxy to keep the true IP addresses hidden, Tor uses a whole chain of proxies, hence its name.
“Ten years ago, no one had this concept of privacy. But with the [former General David] Petraeus scandal and cellphones recording your location, now this doesn’t seem so far-fetched anymore,” Andrew Lewman – Tor’s executive director – explained to The Washington Post.
While TOR claims to be “used every day for a wide variety of purposes by the military, journalists, law enforcement officers, activists, and many others”, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center (CEOP) warns that out of the 15.000 British citizens that use it, 5.000 are suspected of conducting a wide range of illegal activities.
A 30-year-old man who wishes to remain anonymous said he had started using Tor just a few months ago to buy drugs from a website called Silk Road.
“You sign up like any other site: username, password, etc, and that’s it, you’re there,” he said.
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing: every drug under the sun listed, from all over the world. It seemed unreal. Pictures, ratings, candid reviews about people’s experiences with them,” he continued.
After spending his Bitcoins, the package arrived.
“…a few days later a letter arrives from Holland, flat-packed with a birthday card within it and a vacuum-packed plastic bag of coke,” he confessed.
“The same thing happened with the hash, I couldn’t believe it. Drugs had been delivered to my door by Royal Mail. Madness,” the man said.
Is Tor to be blacklisted by governments from around the world? Prime Minister David Cameron believes that websites and search engines should take responsibility for what they offer, especially when it comes to child pornography.
“I am sickened by the proliferation of child pornography. It pollutes the internet, twists minds and is quite simply a danger to children,” he said last Sunday.
“Internet companies and search engines make their living by trawling and categorising the web. So I call on them to use their extraordinary technical abilities to do more to root out these disgusting images. That is why the Government is convening a round-table of the major internet companies, and demanding that more is done.”
The backside of the problem, however, is privacy – an overgrowing concern in the past few years. A computer security consultant said that…
“Following Government collusion with record companies and copyright holders to crack down on file-sharing copyrighted material, users were led to using networks like Tor previously only used by computer geeks and people seeking out illicit material. Same thing applies here, more so. The people who are targeted by this type of legislation will spend hours and go to every effort to seek out material.”
“These are innocent family people who are not guilty of anything. They use Tor because they don’t want themselves or family followed around by councils or the police,” a British blogger, who’s also using Tor, wrote.
While we agree that the issues at hand are not to be ignored, the whole thing could easily get out of hand, just as it happened with peer-to-peer technology.
Filed under: Announcements & Events, Digital Media, Mobile Phones, P2P technology, Entertainment Industry, File-Sharing Programs, Networks & Services
Following England’s workarounds on the issue of online piracy we find that Sky, Virgin Media, BT, and probably other internet providers have started an off-the-books campaign against pirate proxies.
While some of the world’s most popular torrent sites, including TPB, Kat.ph, H33t, and Fenopy, can no longer be accessed on the island, at least not by their original web addresses, people have turned their heads towards alternatives – that is pirate proxies – and, apparently, the BPI and UK’s ISPs had done the same. Although the list of blocked torrent proxies is off the records, TorrentFreak had managed to publish some of the names, as following:
“Although the results may not be the same for all providers, the following sites appear to be blocked (in part) now. All sites in this list provide access to at least one of the torrent sites previously blocked by court order,” TF notes.
Drastik, the man who operates Pirateproxy.net, had told TF that:
“I never thought the BPI would go this far. I have already started setting up new servers for the blocks. However, I think educating people about alternate methods will be better. I have compiled a list of some good methods on a dedicated page,” he said.
“I will continue to move the site to new servers to keep it accessible.”
As for the other side of the camp, a BPI spokesperson said that…
“The court orders obtained in relation to The Pirate Bay cover not only the site itself, but also sites which have the sole or predominant purpose of providing access to The Pirate Bay. It would not be right to allow proxy sites flagrantly to circumvent blocks ordered by the High Court. We do not publish the names of proxies and it would not be appropriate for us to do so.”
Well, folks, it looks like the jig is up, but we have a feeling that this is far from over, especially that these rushed blockages are likely to set another route for those who really want to get their torrent feed.
Filed under: Announcements & Events, Digital Media, Mobile Phones, P2P technology, Entertainment Industry, File-Sharing Programs, Networks & Services
David Lowery, a well-established musician, Martin Mills, founder of the Beggars Group, the BPI and several other representatives, including Theo Bertrand, representing Google in the UK, have discussed the delicate subject of ad-funded piracy.
Two days ago, the aforementioned, plus Alexandra Scott, public policy manager at the UK-based Internet Advertising Bureau, James Barton, artist manager at The Blue Team and the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Innovation Lab met at the University of Westminster (London) to address the thorny issue of ad-funded piracy.
David Lowery, the 53-years-old songwriter, producer, label founder, and programmer, started by underlining that “I’m not unsympathetic to the views of the technology industry, because I’m a part of it.”
However, he went on by explaining that, despite his deep understanding of how technology works, there are some problems hiding beneath the surface.
“Artists have always been exploited… it wasn’t right then, and it isn’t right now,” Lowery continued.
He’s referring to the 1950’s, when artists were abusively “milked” by exactly those who were supposed to protect their rights – the labels.
Ad-supported piracy is pretty much the same, the musician believes.
“This new ad-supported piracy is kinda 1950s music business, except you don’t get the Cadillac! In fact, it’s actually worse than that. Cadillac, which is made by Chevrolet, actually exploits it.”
While the entertainment industries, at least on US soil, blame Google for not doing enough in this war against online piracy, Lowery acknowledges that the search engine is not the “worst offender” when it comes to ad-supported piracy.
“They’re just here to defend themselves!” he noted.
To back his claims, Lowery gave three examples of how unlicensed music becomes a source of revenues.
Type “Call me Maybe” (by Carly Rae Jepsen) in Google’s search bar, and a list of unlicensed websites will show. Six of these portals proved to currently have ad contracts with Google or DoubleClick, which also belongs to Google as a subsidiary company.
In the case of iTunes, Lowery said:
”You don’t get legitimate sites. You don’t even get Google Play until the second play.”
The artist went on to display examples of how ad-funded piracy can lead to a dangerous slope.
“If the future of music really is access to songs rather than owning as many as we do nowadays, those services are all advertising-supported, and they’re competing with these illegitimate sites for these ads,” he continued.
“Spotify and Pandora should have probably rightfully got that advertising money.”
In his opinion, tech companies and entertainment companies, along with artists and content creators, should build a strong connection.
“We should just think of this as a society.”
“Just from the point of view of what is good for your country if you think of your country as a business.”
Last but not least, Lowery brought up another interesting fact – tech companies’ revenues (Google, Apple, and Amazon specifically) between 2001 and 2012 went up, up, and away – 58.319% for Google, 3.396% for Apple and 2.0% for Amazon, while the US music industry felt a decisive drop in revenues – 64% between 2000 and 2012.
Alexandra Scott had something to say as well.
“This is a huge industry. We’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of players here. It’s not always obvious to those players where that advertising is going. There’s a huge amount of work that we’re undertaking to address that.”
Sam Shemtob, moderator of the debate, asked Alexandra why are there so many “middlemen” when it comes to online advertising. To that, Scott said:
“Often those middlemen are helping to make advertising more efficient, more targeted and more relevant.”
“I don’t think we want to do away with that, because that innovation is helping to drive the business… Obviously there are concerns about where that advertising is going to appear… It’s not something that’s easy to address: there’s no one-size fits all.”
Feeling that there’s much to say about this, Lowery drew yet another interesting question: why aren’t companies like Apple or Coca-Cola showing up on pirate or adult-oriented websites?
“If Apple does it, if Coca-Cola does it… There seems to be some way of controlling that. My take on this is that when things get more complex, it’s to insulate institutions and individuals from the liability of bad things that happen. In fact, usually what they say in the financial services system is complexity is fraud! Don’t you think that some of this complexity is to remove liability for the major corporations?” the musician asked.
“No. I don’t think this is a way of people hiding behind things. If we look at advertisers, it’s their prerogative to say ‘I don’t want to appear against certain types of content’… Where there’s been a difficulty, particularly here in the UK, is what is an infringing site?”
“Coca-Cola may say ‘we only want to work on a white-list basis, we only want to appear against certain publishers,” she continued, while admitting that there could be “huge reputational damage” for brands to pop-up on shady (read pirate) websites.
“They don’t want to be going on these sites. They’re just not always aware of the issue. They don’t necessarily know it’s happening until there’s a crisis… I don’t think that people actively seek out these sites to go and advertise on… Eyeballs isn’t the only thing for advertising: it’s all about context,” Scott said.
This is where Theo Bertrand (representing Google) felt compelled to add his opinion:
“It does seem to me to be an entirely sensible way to tackle piracy… most people doing piracy are not some guy in his bedroom altruistically sharing music with his friends. It’s people making money out of piracy, and it’s big business: some of these sites have 2m visitors regularly, and they’re not doing a bad business from advertising.”
How about YouTube and Blogger?
“If people have got content up there that is unlicensed and infringing, that would be a breach of our rules,” he said, citing YouTube’s ContentID system – “which cost us about $30m to develop” – which matches music within videos to a library of licensed songs, for rightsholders to claim, and then either leave alone, make money from ads around it, or get it taken down,” Bertrand continued.
“We’re seeing a huge rise in the number of takedown requests,” he said.
“The BPI are still number one or thereabouts in the amount they take down.”
As far as advertising is concerned, Google’s research (published last year in the UK) found that two thirds of the visited [by UK citizens, naturally] pirate sites are funded by advertising.
“You can tell then that there is some work being done by the far bigger share of the industry that is adhering to industry codes to stop putting ads on these sites than those who pay no heed to these things,” Google’s representatives continued, while agreeing with Lowery’s idea that brands could constitute a good start.
“Getting them to say ‘I’m going to be really clear with you: I don’t want you to put advertising on these sites, I do want you to put advertising on these sites’.”
He went on to clarify that once an ad has been served, Google’s (and companies alike) obligation is to “take it down” when the case requires it.
“We’re doing that at record levels, but we know we need to do more,” he said.
As for Google’s search advertising, which is most of the company’s business, Bertrand said:
“We capture people at a moment of intention. If I want to buy a set of new glasses, and I go on to Google and I put ‘wine glasses’ or ‘new tumblers’, the reason that’s of value to an advertiser is that Facebook might know lots about you – you’re somebody who drinks a lot of wine, likes glasses, but it can’t capture you at that moment where you’re looking to buy that thing.”
“If you’re an advertiser, that is when you want to capture someone. So the value of search to advertisers is we are there at the moment of intent. I don’t know if you type in music, there’s lots of adverts that come down at the side… I don’t think the search advertising part is really the problem here.”
“And the only way you get that scale is if you get the big brands.”
In other words, brands should take responsibility.
“If we manage to drain the swamp so it’s only the dodgy brands and the dodgy agencies that appear on the dodgy sites, I think we’ll have done enough to make sure it’s not a profitable business.” Lowery agreed.
At the time being, it was Geoff Taylor’s turn to say something:
“I think we’ve all been a bit slow to get to grips with this, perhaps because we were focused on other targets.”
“We shouldn’t kid ourselves – as some of the follow-the-money advocates do – that this is going to make the problem go away,” he continued.
“There’s lots of people running illegal pharmacies or illegal dating sites or gambling sites who’ll still provide a revenue stream for these sites.”
You should also know that the British Phonographic Industry plans to introduce a “structured scheme” to counter the problem, but it’s unsure whether Google is willing to spend more on technologies such as ContentID.
“It seems to me to be not beyond the technology capability,” Geoff said.
“They know very well what sites are illegal, because we send them notices, a million a week… yet coming on to search, very often those sites appear at the top of search results. It’s great that the advertising industry is starting to work with us, Google are part of that… but hey, that can’t be where it stops.”
“Is there a sort-of left-hand right-hand issue that Google can maybe work on, if you’re being served these takedowns?” the moderator asked Bertrand.
“I am an optimist, in that search will get better, and be able to serve people with the results exactly that they want, and to do so utterly lawfully as well,” the representative replied.
“I know the complexities can be seen as something to hide behind,” he continued.
“It is easier to tell whether something is pornography than whether something is licensed or not… The legal basis for declaring a whole site unlawful in the UK at least still only applies to a relatively small handful of websites.”
At this point, Taylor blew some steam and said – “Even those guys, you won’t remove!” – referring to the infamous Pirate Bay, amongst others.
In response, Bertrand answered that:
“If you do a Google search for these, and you got a link for Pirate Bay, if you click on it you’ll get an interstitial telling you this has been blocked, which I’d have thought is a pretty good thing for people to see that.”
“Blocking websites, I don’t think is as effective as going after them as a business,” he continued.
“The supply that was going to Megaupload had simply shifted to a whole new range of middle-ranking pirate sites… My worry is if we’re going after them one at a time with blocking, you start getting into the whack-a-mole thing.”
In Google’s opinion, as explained by its representative, the fight against online piracy shouldn’t rely solely on some company’s shoulders, but instead be a unified effort.
“It’s not Google’s job to go around the web to declare whether sites are legal or illegal, but if Coca-Cola comes to us and says here’s a list of 500 dynamic sites, and we don’t want you to place ads on those… that’s a slightly different thing. It’s almost a marketing thing for the brand,” Bertrand explained.
The discussion went on with arguments from all sides. Lowery, for example, said that:
“We sometimes conflate the search engine Google with the overall internet. Just because Google blocks certain websites, that’s not censorship. Google is a private company, it’s not censoring those websites.”
“Either Google is the web, and therefore it’s a public property that belongs to all of us, and we get to tell it what to do. Or it’s a private company. You can’t have it both ways,” he continued.
“The internet you see is censored all the time… sensibly. You could almost go after the hosts and not the individual websites, and then you’re talking about half a dozen is the majority of the traffic,” the musician concluded.
A couple of glasses of water later, James Barton chipped in by saying:
“How refreshing that finally in 2013 we’re able to have a conversation with members of big tech and big music industry where we can find common ground, and look for a pragmatic solution to the piracy problem.”
“Still slightly missing from this: the conversation surrounding music is between big tech and the big music industry, and the voice that is missing is the voice of the fan, and the voice of the artist… The big next process is educating fans as to why they need to pay, the same as the brands in the damage they are doing to creators when they support these infringing sites,” he continued.
The meeting was indeed interesting, and we can only hope that it will eventually lead to a common ground between content creators, the entertainment industries, and tech companies, for their and our (the consumers) benefit.
The event ended with a Q&A session. Feel free to read more here.
Filed under: Announcements & Events, Digital Media, Mobile Phones, P2P technology, File-Sharing Programs, Networks & Services, Legal P2P News & Issues
After successfully managing to take The Pirate Bay and Newzbin2 offline, UK’s government is looking forward to introduce (somewhere next year) a graduated-response system. How effective will the system be against online piracy, however, is disputed by Ofcom’s quarterly report.
Ofcom’s quarterly report, covering November 2012 – January 2013, reveals that notification letters (sent by ISPs to customers who are suspected of downloading and or uploading copyrighted content) which threaten to suspend the user’s internet access would have the desired effect on just 16% of those who are allegedly infringing copyright online. The previous report (covering August 2012 – October 2012) showed that 18% (aged 12+) got their hands on unlicensed content at least once.
Now, here’s something for the entertainment industries to consider before they go and block websites at DNS level. Internet consumers agreed upon three vital changes that would make them stop infringing copyright: 28% (down from 30% in the previous report) claim that affordable legal services would make them stop from downloading illegal content, 24% (down from 25% in the previous report) asked for a system that clearly determines which content is legal and which is not, and 22% (down from 24% in the previous report) agreed that availability is an important issue that drives people to pirate.
Furthermore, 41% of all internet users (age 12+) said that they are “not particularly confident” or “not at all confident” about what’s legal and what’s not legal (online, of course).
The survey explains that for music, films and TV programmes, consumers who chose both legal and illegal content “claimed to spend more on that particular content type over the three-month period than those who consumed either 100% legally or 100% illegally“.
Why? Well, 48% (down from 50%) said because it’s free, 39% (down from 46%) chose convenience, and 36% (down from 43%) said because it’s fast.
As for the source of pirated content, peer-to-peer takes the cake, with 35% preferring the decentralized method. Cyberlockers account for just 12%.
Will these results bring further changes to the Obligations Code? We’re about to see…